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The Difference Between A Great Leader And A Regular Manager

The Difference Between A Great Leader And A Regular Manager

That’s kind of a funny title to me, honestly. The difference between a great leader and a regular manager—as if the two are actually similar. Like asking, “what’s the difference between an orange and a tangerine?” A leader and a manager are so entirely different from each other, in my opinion. More like an orange and a shovel!

But this question is asked because there is a perception that they’re similar. A false perception. So many people are so used to a corporate hierarchy that they assume that their superior—their manager—is also someone they should follow and look up to. And a lot of managers automatically assume that their status makes them a leader, that people should look up to them and hold them in high regard.

All that is completely wrong and makes no sense. You have little say in who is assigned to be your manager, but you choose who you are going to follow. A manager of a department is just a title—it’s just another name for someone who was given a certain amount of authority over other employees. Yet, any one of those employees could be a leader.

It also greatly matters what area of life we’re talking about. For the sake of this article, we’re going to look at the traditional manager as leader in a company. Keep in mind, though, that this extends to all areas of life, like being a leader within your family and community, or being a leader within your circle of friends and with your hobbies.

As an online marketer, I can’t simply manage. With my colleagues, clients, and contractors, there is very little room for simply telling them what to do. I have to back everything up with my actions, my performance, and my integrity. Being an entrepreneur has required that I learn how to lead, and fast.

My many years in the corporate world gave me many lessons on the friction created when people think of being a leader as an assigned title, as opposed to an earned status that has to be backed up by daily actions.

If you’re a manager at your company, how can you become a better leader? As an employee, what traits do you look for in a leader that distinguishes them from just a manager? Let’s look at some key points.

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1. A great leader connects daily work with greater goals, rather than focusing on short-term results.

The larger the company, the easier it is to lose site of greater goals. Even at the largest, most successful companies in the world, you will find within them a series of departments doing the same tasks day in and day out. Microsoft, Google, Virgin Inc., all have budget and accounting departments, operations, and IT departments. In just about every company in every industry, the purpose of those jobs is pretty much the same.

When I used to work in investment banking and trading, I often had this empty feeling that my work was just getting lost among the mass of work throughout the company. I’d hand it in by a certain deadline, and I’d rarely hear anymore about it. Who did it actually go to? Who actually looked at it and relied on it? How did it actually contribute to the company as a whole and what goals did it serve?

Every goal, no matter how great, has to be broken down into smaller goals, daily goals, and eventually actionable steps. These actionable steps make up an employees job description and duties. But how often are employees reminded of why they’re doing what they’re doing?

It’s that employee’s job to go in each day and take care of those assigned duties. It’s the manager’s responsibility to make sure that his team is completing all of the assigned duties.

A leader, however, keeps that greater goal in mind. A leader is aware of how this seemingly boring and repetitive work is contributing to and accomplishing a greater goal. A leader knows that success is boring, that it is made up of consistency and discipline.

A manager focuses on making sure all the daily work is done, which is his job and makes him look good and will eventually lead to a promotion. A leader does all that, but at the same time, makes sure his employees are aware of their contribution to the greater goals.

2. A great leader thinks of people as people instead of seeing only titles and organization.

A manager can justifiably only look at his job as managing a department. Everyone’s title gives him a clear summary of what they do and what to expect from them, including himself. A manager has a place in an organization and he/she is either looking to remain in that capacity successfully or move up higher within the company.

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Within that context are actual employees with lives and feelings of their own. A leader is aware of that on a regular basis. Knowing who your employees are, their strength and weaknesses, their aspirations and fears, their dreams and passions is an intangible but very valuable asset. It allows you to organize the work within your department to everybody’s strength. It allows people’s self confidence to grow.

When people feel appreciated and valued, their energy level goes up. Their pride and sense of integrity in their work goes up. Not just for themselves but because they also care how they reflect on their manager.

3. A great leader is excited about members’ achievements instead of feeling threatened.

A manager is also an employee, with his own goals and motives. Everyone wants to get ahead and be recognized for their achievements. As a manager, that position often means that you get recognized and congratulated for the success of your department, which is fair enough because the functioning of the department is the manager’s responsibility.

At the same time, it is possible for a member of the team to be individually recognized for a job well done.

There are two courses of action here for both scenarios above. Unfortunately, the more common scenario is that the manager will accept the praise and recognition for the performance of the department and pat himself on the back for being a great manager. And when a member of his team is recognized for their accomplishments and contributions without him, there will be a natural reaction of feeling threatened. After all, an employee moving up could mean him moving down.

A leader won’t look at it that way. A leader will immediately remind the organization that it was the work of the individuals that allowed his team to perform so well. They made his job easy, and the recognition should go to them, by name.

A leader will be the first one to stand up and shout “congratulations!” to a team member without any feeling of threat. Why? Because a leader revels in the success of others and knows that pulling other up is how he will succeed, not by keeping others down.

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4. A great leader feels responsible when members make mistakes instead of blaming the team.

Accepting responsibility is one of the more undervalued traits out there. Sure, we can all agree that it’s admirable and everyone should do it, but easier said than done, which is why it can be so hard to teach! It has to be taught by example—so if it’s easier said that done, who’s doing the teaching?

A manager locates the source of a mistake and blames that person—which is fine; a person should accept blame for their mistakes and strive to do better next time. But the manager is also the representative and advocate for this team. So when he blames his team for a mistake to people outside of the team, two things can happen. First, it makes his team look bad. Second, his team can lose trust and respect for him because they now know that he won’t advocate for them and is putting himself first.

A leader, however, sees the performance of his team as his responsibility. Since their work reflects on him, he accepts responsibility for their performance. Mistakes are part of human nature, but they can also reflect a problem with the system that the team functions within. Why was the mistake made, and how can it be prevented in the future? What can the team improve? These are the concerns that come to a leader’s mind. While he will be aware of who made the mistake and why, he will not announce it to the world. Instead, he will accept responsibility for what happened.

A leader leads by example. By accepting responsibility for the mistakes of his team, his team will learn to accept responsibility for their work and naturally be more thorough in the future. This small gesture also helps his team members improve the quality of their work and, therefore, their careers—which, as we know, a leader cares about.

5. A great leader is more concerned with the process than the results.

What’s more important: the result or the process? Every company or organization is going to be concerned with the bottom line, of course. Results have to be seen in order for goals to be achieved. A manager is keenly aware of what work needs to get done and the deadlines that apply. A manager has to show results and will be held accountable for them. So it’s in a managers best interest to demand and expect results from his team.

If you look at the bigger picture you’ll see that, with a proper system in place, work will get done thoroughly, on time, and results will be a natural by product of how efficient the system in place is. So what if results aren’t being shown consistently? Or to the desired level? A leader understands that it’s the process that’s most important. One bottleneck could be handicapping an otherwise efficient system and team of people.

A leader is keenly aware that it’s the process that needs to be nurtured and monitored. Results are just a symptom.

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6. A great leader uses passion to motivate and inspire instead of using authority.

As tempting as it is to wield your authority when a deadline is approaching or when better performance is needed, it can only take you so far. In some cases, it can be effective or even necessary to use your authority. Tough love has its place. But again, it can only take you so far and it typically has short term results. People aren’t going to go home with growing respect for a manager that constantly says “do as I say.”

A leader has passion and knows that passion is contagious. Even on mundane projects, a leader can be passionate about the performance of his team, about completing the project and the sense of accomplishment everyone will get out of it.

A leader seeks to use his passion to inspire his team. Inspiration will allow people to take their effectiveness and productivity to new heights, every single time.

7. A great leader actively supports his team instead of handing out assignments.

My business is entirely remote. My students, contractors and colleagues live all over the place. The only way I can see great results with my team is to get in there with them. Everything I teach, I am doing myself. Every assignment that I contract out, I have worked on myself and in many cases will continue to work on and help those contractors out if they need it.

A manager can tend to simply hand out assignments and expect them to be completed. A leader actively supports his team and doesn’t hesitate to help his team out when it’s needed, as opposed to sitting idly by looking at the deadline.

A leader considers himself part of the team, fully interested in the success and well being of everyone on the team.

Do you agree? Disagree? Is there anything that I missed? Please share your thoughts below!

Featured photo credit: http://www.freeimages.com/profile/spekulator via freeimages.com

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

1. Make Time for You

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

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2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

4. Work on Your Personal Brand

Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

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Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

5. Be Accountable

Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

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This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

8. Learn to Embrace Failure

Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

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“I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

9. Build Your Resilience

Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

10. Ask for Help

It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

  1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
  2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
  3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

Final Thoughts

You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

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